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POLITICS > Gezi Park's fate could be subject to referendum, PM Erdoğan proposes

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Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met today in Ankara with a group of 11 'representatives' of the protesters, including artists, academics and students. AP photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met today in Ankara with a group of 11 'representatives' of the protesters, including artists, academics and students. AP photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has raised the possibility of bringing the issue of the demolition of Gezi Park to a referendum, ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Spokesperson Hüseyin Çelik said June 12. 

In a press conference following a marathon meeting between Erdoğan and a group of 11 people representing the protesters, Çelik said the government would look into the issue of organizing a referendum in Istanbul.

“The prime minister said that since we want to know what the people think, we can bring the option of a referendum to the concerned bodies. With a decision from the AKP’s Central Executive Committee, the necessary step could be undertaken,” Çelik said during the press conference. 

He added that the referendum would only be on the reconversion of the iconic park to the replica of the historic Artillery Barracks, a flagship venue that was announced by the prime minister among its “crazy projects” for Istanbul. It was initially said that the building would comprise a shopping center, which sparked an outcry among citizens who opposed the demolition of Istanbul’s green lung at the heart of its entertainment area.

Çelik added that the demolition of the Atatürk Cultural Center would not be included in the referendum as the building was not strong enough to survive an earthquake.   

Call for end of 'occupy' protest

“The concrete result of the meeting is the following: We can bring this issue to a referendum. Not for the whole of Turkey, but we will ask the citizens of Istanbul,” he said, calling on the protesters to end their demonstration.

“I address my young brothers that demonstrate, sleep, eat and drink at Gezi Park. Since there is such a decision for the possibility of a referendum, we think that after this gesture of goodwill Gezi Park should be emptied and life there should be brought back to normal,” he said. 

‘We were not consulted on referendum’

However, following Çelik’s statement, the group that met with Erdoğan said that they had not been consulted regarding the possibility of organizing a referendum. “As people who believe in dialogue we think that a communication line has been opened. We are not anyone’s spokesperson. We want Gezi Park to remain a park and we want those responsible [for the police crackdowns] to be investigated,” academic İpek Akpınar said on behalf of the group, adding that they made clear that they did not have any authority on the government’s solutions

“We will not make public our personal opinions tonight. We will announce it from tomorrow,” she added.  

Erdoğan had earlier met with group of 11 people, including artists, academics and students, regarding the protests as part of the government’s attempt to listen to the demands of the demonstrators.

Interior Minister Muammer Güler, Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar, Tourism and Culture Minister Ömer Çelik and the vice chair of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Hüseyin Çelik, were also present at the meeting, which was held at the AKP headquarters in Ankara. Prior to the meeting, the prime minister convened the Central Executive Board (MYK) of his party to discuss the protests.

However, some activists had doubts about the talks’ legitimacy, and some of those invited had declined to meet with Erdoğan.

The Taksim Platform had announced that they were not notified of a meeting and the group “does not represent” the protestors across the country. The group, which started the protests 16 days ago, had made six demands to the deputy prime minister in a meeting last week, including the ban or severe restrictions in the use of tear gas and the dismissal of officials that were involved in the violent police crackdowns, especially during the first days of the protests.

June/12/2013

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READER COMMENTS

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vladimir kocur

6/14/2013 12:09:10 AM

Why is no one asking who OWNS Gezi Parki? Why MUST this park be developed? Why has the contract to do the job? Who is going to profit? Where are the documents about the sale? These should be public documents, accessible to all interested parties. It cannot be that a large piece of public land can be 'taken' by ....shadowy business groups and no one knows who they are. THERE IS RULE OF LAW in Turkey.

vladimir kocur

6/14/2013 12:06:08 AM

Why is no one asking who OWNS Gezi Parki? Why MUST this park be developed? Why has the contract to do the job? Who is going to profit? Where are the documents about the sale? These should be public documents, accessible to all interested parties. It cannot be that a large piece of public land can be 'taken' by ....shadowy business groups and no one knows who they are. THERE IS RULE OF LAW in Turkey.

John Boy

6/13/2013 6:32:20 PM

Shouldn't this be a local issue and not concerning the Prime Minister at all?

Murat

6/13/2013 5:57:03 PM

Hicks, this is the point exactly. He has been such a polarizing figure that even the good deed of his party is overshadowed by his brutish behavior and talk. He truly has done a lot for Turkey and Turkish democracy but it seems he will be the victim of his success and creation. His hypocrisy and insistence on lies and exaggerations is just unbearable. He is the pious one? People are way too smart for all this. It is unfortunate that he has proven his worst critiques right.

Çılgın Kanarya

6/13/2013 5:19:02 PM

Thanks very much for your continued concern MARA :) Yesterday after work I was compelled to pay a visit to a place called Çaǧlayan, where I was delightfully hosted for around 3 hours, but after that I headed straight to Taksim again until the early hours, so it was a very busy and tiring day and I had no time to write any comments. I'm absolutely fine though. I was determined to leave some comments today anyway, because I didn't want Dutch Turk getting too worried about me either :)

Philpot

6/13/2013 4:08:51 PM

@Hicks LONDON - the UK 11pm law you speak of was abolished in 2003.

mara mcglothin

6/13/2013 3:26:50 PM

NIce to see your comment CILGIN. I was worried yesterday when I didn't see your name under any article. Godspeed!

dennis kavaz

6/13/2013 3:18:10 PM

The Prime-minister of Turkey Mr Erdugan has proposed that a referendum should be held to decide a suitable outcome of the on going Gezi park dispute; to be truthful Mr Erdugan has a valid point; however he hasn’t said from which part of the country people vote in the referendum? The local people who live close to Gezi Park? Or people which has nothing to with Gezi Park. I.e. people who lives in Mersin, Bursa, Trabzon, and Ankara?

Çılgın Kanarya

6/13/2013 3:10:54 PM

Hicks LONDON, it may have escaped your attention, but there are currently no buildings in Gezi Park which would collapse in the event of an earthquake! And since the fundamental aim of the protests is to prevent any kind of building on in the park, what exactly is your point? Also, as regards alcohol, it is sensible in England to have some restrictions due to the behaviour of the country's youth when they get drunk. There isn't & never has been a culture of drunken brawling on Turkish streets.

Hicks LONDON

6/13/2013 12:23:58 PM

The goverment will hold a referendum , i have no doubt, I think the point has been made time to move on.. any further riots or occupacy like the one in London will only further damage your country, I'm sure you don't want that....The PM has done wonders for Turkey in the past ten years - surely you don;t want to go back to the past, Turkey/Istanbul does need a complete revamp Earthquake zone...most buildings are not safe, Alcohol is banned in England after 11pm it's been like this for years....
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